Peggy Whitson and John Shoffner during training. Credits: Axiom Space

Axiom Space announces the crew for the second private mission to the ISS

Axiom Space announced the final crew for Axiom Mission 2 (Ax-2), the second all-private mission to the International Space Station (ISS)

On Feb. 13, 2023, Axiom Space announced the final crew for Axiom Mission 2 (Ax-2), the second all-private mission to the International Space Station (ISS).

It will be the first private space mission to include both private astronauts and astronauts representing foreign governments.

Former NASA astronaut and Axiom Space private astronaut Peggy Whitson. Credits: Axiom Space

Peggy Whitson will serve as the Commander.

She is Axiom Space’s Director of Human Spaceflight and a former NASA astronaut (NASA requires commercial agencies to assign a former professional astronaut as Mission Commander).

During her NASA career, she flew to space three times, became the first female commander of the ISS, and performed ten spacewalks. She holds the record among American astronauts and women for spending the most time in space, over 665 days.

John Shoffner will serve as the Crew Dragon Pilot.

He is a STEM advocate, space enthusiast, and a lifetime athlete with many years of competing in cycling, white water kayaking, waterskiing, skydiving, base jumping, and motorsports.

Through the Ax-2 mission, he will work to bring awareness to the new era of space access through scientific research, technology demonstrations, and educational events aimed at inspiring students to follow their interests.

Axiom Space private astronaut John Shoffner. Credits: Axiom Space
Saudi astronaut Rayyanah Barnawi. Credits: Axiom Space

Rayyanah Barnawi will serve as a Mission Specialist.

She was selected along with three others as part of the Saudi national astronaut program and is now assigned to represent the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia on the Ax-2 mission.

Rayyanah has a Master’s in Biomedical Sciences; she he is also a research laboratory technician with nine years of experience in breast cancer and cancer stem-cell research.

Ali AlQarni will serve as a Mission Specialist.

He is an astronaut selected to represent the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia serving as a mission specialist on the Ax-2 mission.

Ali graduated with a Bachelor of Aerospace Science at King Faisal Air Academy.

He is also an Air Force captain and fighter pilot with 12 years of experience flying fighter aircraft and 2,387 flight hours total.

Saudi astronaut Ali Alqarni. Credits: Axiom Space


The mission

NASA and its ISS partners recently approved the Ax-2 crew, clearing a major milestone for the four-person multi-national team to travel to the orbiting laboratory. 

The launch is scheduled for the spring of 2023 aboard a SpaceX’s Falcon 9 Rocket from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Ax-2 will dock with the International Space Station (ISS), where the private astronauts will spend 10 days working and performing scientific experiments.

The International Space Station seen from the Soyuz MS-08 spacecraft. Credits: Roscosmos
The International Space Station. Credits: Roscosmos

NASA and Axiom mission planners will coordinate in-orbit activities to be conducted together with space station crew members and ground flight controllers.

This mission moves Axiom Space one step closer toward the realization of a commercial space station in low-Earth orbit called Axiom Space Station”.

Digital model of Axiom Space Station docked to the International Space Station during its construction. Credits Axiom Space
Axiom Space Station docked to the ISS. Credits: Axiom Space


The training

All private astronauts flying to the ISS received the standard official review by NASA and its international partners and underwent all NASA medical qualification testing before being approved for flight.

Candidates for flight also completed SpaceX and Axiom Space’s rigorous training schedule over many months, in preparation to live and work in space.

The training includes between 700 and 1,000 hours of training about emergency procedures, ISS systems, and flight and launch operations.

They completed additional training for research and experiments.

Peggy Whitson and John Shoffner during training. Credits: John Shoffner via Twitter
Peggy Whitson and John Shoffner during training. Credits: John Shoffner via Twitter

*All Crew pictures credits are due to Axiom Space.


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Benedetta Facini

Benedetta Facini

Italian physics student and aspiring astronaut.
I talk about space and astronauts on social media


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